I have always seen Freemasonry as being supported by three legs. The principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Without any one of those three legs, Freemasonry would not stand firm. It is Brotherly Love that cements our organisation, and relief, or charity that enables us to reach out and support our society in times of need. And of course, underpinned by that one defining characteristic that for me, makes Freemasonry stand clear and proud from many other organisations – that of Truth. The thinking and philosophy that underpins Freemasonry. Much of this emerged during the period of Enlightenment in the 18th Century with the focus on the liberal arts and sciences which in turn led to the foundation of Institutions such as the Royal Society and the formulation of Freemasonry in the form that we recognise today. It is those philosophical foundations that help us to make what we consider our daily advancement in Masonic knowledge. Our whole society is based on allegory and founded on principles and constructs which have deep philosophical roots.
For me, Freemasonry is not just about the Lodge. A Lodge happens to be the ‘formal’ place where we come together to the hidden mysteries of nature and science, to enjoy each other’s company and to dine and talk and relax. In the time of coronavirus it is something that that we are all missing, and unfortunately that we may have to continue to miss for some little time to come. But as we cannot inhabit the physical lodge at the moment, we can inhabit what I call the allegorical lodge. In some Craft Freemasonry in Belgium, the concept of a Lodge is not a physical place, but a framework where Freemasons come together to think and address philosophical issues. In many senses it is a little like Freemasonry in the 18th Century. In his 2004 Prestonian Lecture, Trevor Stewart looked at how Lodges worked at the time and made the following observations:
- Freemasons saw skilful, rational discussion of subjects at the Festive Board as an important form of self-development.
- Freemasons were teaching each other different skills, languages, philosophies, and sciences. Indeed, Lodges would work together to purchase books and share educational materials.
- Lodges would have talks on scientific and philosophical subjects including displays of rare stones, optical, historical, and zoological items.
- Architectural and mathematical subjects were explored, and it was a common practice for members to visit places here and abroad to view buildings or other constructions.
And all this while having lots of fun and drinking fine wines and port!
So what is the point I’m trying to make? Given that we are unable to meet in a normal way due to the pandemic, we still have the opportunity to explore, to connect and to expand our knowledge outside of the traditional construct of the Lodge, enabled by technology and with opportunities which few Freemasons before us had; access to resources such as UGLE’s Solomon website (https://solomon.ugle.org.uk/), virtual Lodges of Instruction, and events such as the Hertfordshire Lockdown Learning online presentations held over the summer. Using such resources, talking to each other, and continuing to make that daily advancement, we can help build and sustain Freemasonry until the time is again right for us to open the physical Lodge.
Brethren, stay within hail so as to come on in due time that profit and pleasure may be the result.